Landscaping for privacy around pools and spas

By John Storch
Thursday, 02 May, 2013

Landscaping for privacy around pools and spas

To achieve success with any new pool or spa area, the landscaping of the surrounding areas needs to be considered at the initial design phase. John Storch from A Total Concept Landscape Designers has worked in conjunction with a range of pool builders in the past 25 years and believes the best pool builders are happy to work with landscape architects and builders etc ensuring the best outcome is the end result.

Surrounding poolside areas including cabanas, decks and landscaping can often provide pool builders with an extension to their business in quiet market times, or a referral back to a business acquaintance in others.

If considered and constructed correctly, landscape design surrounding swimming pools can increase both the value and the aesthetic appeal of a property and increase the usability of the space by providing a relaxing and refreshing recreation area for family and friends.

One aspect of utmost importance that's often missed or under-thought in the design process, is the provision of privacy. Creating both visual and aural privacy will allow greater enjoyment and utilisation of the pool area.

Most adults don't like to be on visual display to neighbours when swimming, when entertaining friends or just reading a paper while relaxing around the pool.

Aural privacy is also necessary so that nosey neighbours can't eavesdrop and those trying to enjoy their pool don't need to listen to neighbourhood kids, domestic disputes or traffic noise. To feel comfortable outside, the theory 'if you can't hear or see them, they can't hear or see you' seems to apply.

'Good fences make good neighbours' Even good neighbors don't enjoy feeling the need to wave 'Hello' every time they step outside to go for a swim or to relax around the pool area!

Visual privacy can be created by placing the pool in a location not overlooked by neighbouring properties and also by using structures and plants to create screens.

Creating Privacy Using Plants

Plants can provide beauty and interest around a swimming pool, creating a sense of space to soften the harsh lines of fencing, to disguise swimming pool equipment and other unsightly views and to integrate the pool into the surrounding space - including poolside entertaining areas, the garden and the home itself. If you select plants that are suitable, dense and tall enough, they will create a privacy screen around the pool area. Refer to the article 'Selecting Poolside Plants' in PSR 1.3.

When selecting plants consider maintenance. If clients aren't willing to spend time on gardening, look towards low-maintenance plants. For instance, care should be taken with Eucalypts around a swimming pool, many shed leaves crating mess, drop large branches that can block cleaners and many even shed their bark once a year!

Avoid conifers with fine needles that pass through the skimmer and avoid fruit trees as they are messy and often the seeds can't be sucked-up by infloor pool cleaners.

Generally, flowers are bee-magnets and should be avoided as bees always seem to find their way into the water. Plants with spikes may create a great protective privacy screen but they don't mix well with children's bare skin.

Choosing shrubs for privacy screens, however, doesn't necessarily entail growing a hedge. An eclectic mix of plants is an alternative to hedges. While hedges are usually comprised of one homogeneous species, a loose border can be composed of different kinds of evergreen shrubs, or of tropical plants incorporating palms of varying heights which will provide a softer appearance and different feel or theme to the rigid formality of hedges. Another green alternative is growing climbers, either self-supporting or planted on a wall, trellis or wire frame.

Privacy Structures

Structures can be incorporated around the perimeter or to a portion of a swimming pool area to create privacy. Structures can be designed to any required height and be constructed in any material.

Incorporating a structure as part of the swimming pool as a blade or privacy wall may allow for a larger contract for the pool builder if designed as an extension of the vertical swimming pool wall.

Often man made screens constructed from brushwood, reeds or bamboo may provide a structure dense enough to create privacy or as a temporary measure until planting has been given time to grow.

Fencing around swimming pools is an Australian standard requirement for the safety of children. The right style and positioning of fence design can also offer privacy. Choose a fence style that matches the design of your home, while complementing your landscape theme. To soften the fence, position plants on both the inside and the outside or plant a climber onto the fence to visually break the structure. Ensure that children cannot use the tree to climb the pool fence as this would pose a safety risk.

In most areas, the boundary fence height is limited to 1800mm high. This may not be of suitable height for privacy purposes but consider that often a fence positioned 100mm inside the boundary is not subject to the same restrictions and a much higher fence may be able to be installed. Ask your clients local council for clarification.

Aural Privacy

Aural privacy can be provided in two different ways, either by providing 'white noise' or by creating an acoustic barrier.

Structures such as fences and walls designed and constructed in solid materials such as fibrous cement sheeting, brick, block and even timber provide varying degrees of acoustic control. Generally the more dense the product, the better the acoustic privacy that can be achieved. In conjunction with these solid barriers, an acoustic sheeting such as foam or similar product designed for the home or sound studio can be integrated to achieve the desired result.

'White Noise' involves creating aural privacy by creating a further noise to cover up the first unwanted noise. White noise can be used to disguise conversations (so neighbours can't eavesdrop) as well as noises from neighbourhood children and traffic.

Ponds and water features can provide pool builders with an extension to their contract and are great at creating white noise. Water features don't have to be associated with a swimming pool. As a landscape architect I have designed many water features with no swimming pools attached. However, often due to the size or complexity, the trades and filtration equipment needed for these water features have required a competent pool builder to undertake the construction. One of the most basic and pleasing sound features to incorporate into a garden is a basic Japanese bamboo water-spout or 'deer scarer' known as a shishi-odoshi.

Wind chimes are another way to provide 'white noise' and create an air of tranquility and romance to your pool surrounds.

Plants can also provide 'white noise'. Wind generates movement in plants and different plants provide different sounds to cover unwanted noise or disguise conversation. For instance, bamboo creates a squeaking sound as the individual culms rub against each other or in lighter winds, a rustling sound, as the leaves move.

A properly prepared landscape design for swimming pools and the surrounding area incorporating both aural and visual privacy will not only bring great enjoyment to your client and their friends, ensuring referrals, but will also increase the value of the property.

A Total Concept Landscape Architects and Swimming Pool Designers

A Total Concept is an established, award winning practice specialising in the integration of outdoor spaces, incorporating beautiful and functional swimming pools, gardens and cabanas for projects ranging from simple family homes, elaborate residential properties to boutique and resort-style developments.

The team at A Total Concept provides services extending from consultations, designs and specifications, council approvals, to the total management of the project and contract administration for both private clients working with pool builders and direct to pool builders themselves.

Award winning Total Concept brings together all aspects of a project helping with specifying paving selections, landscape lighting, plants, pool equipment, cabanas, fixtures and fittings to ensure that money is spent wisely, to enhance a clients lifestyle and maximise returns on their biggest investment, their home! For more information visit

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